This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
We’re super excited that for the month of May Pippa Wright is here at Novelicious as our author in residence. Each Friday she will be answering a question about her life as a writer.
This week a Novelicious reader asks:
You have such unique ideas for your books, how do you come up with them?
Pippa says: Thanks, that’s a really nice thing to say. I think I waited a long time to try writing a book because I wasn’t sure I had a good enough idea. What I didn’t understand back then is that you get ideas for writing by writing. You start off with one thing, and it becomes something different, and along the way you have to jettison a lot of other ideas. Some of the ideas you left behind on one book might turn into something new. So the more you write, the more ideas you have. Don’t wait to be hit by an amazing and unique idea, is my advice – the good idea will probably come to you while you’re working on something else.
With Lizzy Harrison Loses Control I had been reading a lot of women’s fiction and I noticed that the heroines were nearly always adorably scatty and ditzy and disorganised. I’m not like that at all, quite the opposite, and I started wondering what might happen if you put a very controlling, perfectionist sort of person into a traditional romantic comedy plot. I wasn’t out to entirely subvert the genre: I knew I wanted to have the colourful best friend, the obvious love interest and, most importantly, the happy ending. But I did want a different sort of heroine within that established framework, and that was the starting point. It began quite differently – with a girl whose best friend assumed responsibility for all decisions in her life in order to shake up her routine – but it was impossible to make that convincing. Who’d let their best friend do that? So I had to find another way to force Lizzy to loosen up.
Unsuitable Men came from some terrible dating experiences! Not just mine, but my friends’ too. Terrible, but ultimately we came out of it with some excellent and hilarious stories that were too good not to share. I wanted to have a heroine who was quite different to Lizzy Harrison – someone softer, and a bit too much of a pushover. I was keen that Rory should live somewhere that wasn’t a wacky flatshare with friends of a similar age. I wanted her to be a bit isolated from that, because she’d kind of hibernated in her previous relationship for too long and lost touch with everyone. I hope that you get to see Rory discover herself as the book progresses, rather than just meet unsuitable men.
The Foster Husband came from two different ideas. One was the thought of setting a book in Lyme Regis, where I’d gone to write quite a lot of Unsuitable Men. I loved it there and had an idea about a girl who was obsessed with Jane Austen and Persuasion which is, of course, set in Lyme. I went quite far with that. Then I read an interview with an actress who mentioned her former husband. I was only skimming through the magazine and read it wrongly as ‘my foster husband.’ By the time I realised that wasn’t what she’d said, I’d already started wondering what a foster husband would be, and who might have one and why. That got tangled up with my Lyme Regis idea and I took it from there.
So you can see the finished book often ends up being something quite far off the original idea, but without the original idea, I’d never get started in the first place.